WITH the promise to let customers 'shop like a billionaire' on a budget, Temu has quickly become one of the UK's most downloaded apps of this year.
The online megastore is now squaring up to Amazon – but is the Chinese copycat site as safe or reliable?
What is Temu?
Temu is a the US offshoot of Chinese e-commerce giant PDD Holdings.
The marketplace offers just about any product you can think of for ultra-low prices.
Most of it is up for sale for less than £10.
Mum-of-four Jade Brogden told The Sun she furnished her daughter’s bedroom for just £50 using the app.
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But now she has accused the app of 'spying on her'.
While Temu’s prices are cheap, many new customers can actually get products for free through the retailer's promotional campaigns.
The app's sparkly and dopamine-doused affiliate programmes and reward games has helped lure in masses of customers.
The website claims that if you sign up as an affiliate and bring in a new customer, you get a £3 referral fee and up to 20 per cent commission on anything they buy.
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The more people convinced, the more credits earned.
The app even has a video game, Farmland, where you can win free goods for tending virtual crops.
When was Temu created?
Temu emerged just last year, and is the brainchild of China's young self-made billionaire Colin Huang.
Since 2022, Temu has become the most popular free app on the App Store, ahead of favourites like Tesco, Asda, Amazon and Shein.
Is Temu a legitimate website?
The website is legitimate in that customers usually get what they order, but there are some hang ups.
Goods can take weeks before they reach the doorstep.
According to the Better Business Bureau, an American non-profit, most complaints from Temu customers are over the long shipping times, low-quality items, and poor customer service.
“They’re making delivery promises, and people aren’t getting their stuff when they’re supposed to be,” Melanie McGovern, the director of public relations and social media for the Bureau told TIME in December.
However, Temu will process refunds within 7 days after receipt of the return package from users – so customers aren't completely short-changed if they're unhappy with their products.
There have been no complaints that allege the goods Temu ships are counterfeit or fake.
But there is growing concern among customers and onlookers that the app is being used to harvest data for the Chinese government.
This data can be used to build profiles for companies to use to produce better targeted advertisements – and make more sales.
But this can potentially be used for more sinister purposes, like blackmail and spying.
Professor Sarah Morris, a digital forensic expert at Southampton University, said: “The more places that have and share your data, the more people can build a larger profile, and that can lead to consequences in terms of identity theft and can even profile and pick out people, which is never a good thing.
“In terms of espionage, if you are looking for someone and able to identify a habit and build up a profile, that can certainly give you an advantage and lead to potential opportunities for harm.”
Is the Temu app safe?
The Temu app does collect data from its users, but no more than the likes of Amazon.
It must also comply with US data protections laws.
However, it's parent company, PDD Holdings, is reportedly a lot more sweeping with its data collection.
In March, PDD Holdingd's other app Pinduoduo was suspended by Google after malware coding was discovered in some versions of it.
Pinduoduo gains full access to all your contacts, calendars, and photo albums, plus all your social media accounts, chats, and texts, according to a report by USA Today.
Google said it had taken down the shopping platform from its online store amid “security concerns”.
The Temu app and website has also been given an overall customer review of just 2.3 stars through the Better Business Bureau's rating system.
There are a raft of five-star reviews for Temu on TrustPilot, with customers happy with the low prices and massive variety of items.
But recent complaints about Temu on the BBB website say that items never arrived or took weeks or even months to arrive.
McGovern said it is unusual for such a new company to have received so many complaints in such a short time period.
It should also be noted that Temu's promotional credits scheme has been picked up by cybercriminals online, who have created fake 'free credits' scams to lure in unsuspecting victims.
Why are products on Temu so cheap?
"It appears items ordered are typically directly shipped from manufacturers in China and other countries," the Better Business Bureau writes on its website.
Like Shein, AliExpress, and Wish, Temu advertises products for cheap prices because of lower manufacturing costs in China.
Temu is also able to offer unbeatable prices and a stream of deals due to its access to the PDD supply chain.
Because of PDD scale and factory network, Temu is able to sources a wide range of products at wholesale prices.
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However, a US congressional committee report has warned that Temu’s suppliers could be using forced labour in China’s Xinjiang province.
It is there the Chinese government has been accused of genocide, targeting the Muslim Uyghur people.
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